Micah’s cold weather shelter closes this week, but our work in sheltering those without homes continues.

Tents and sleeping bags are on order, and those who will not have a place to go when the final bus picks up on Wednesday morning will get first dibs. To earn their outdoor gear, however, Micah staff asked that each shelter guest participate in an effort to clean up older campsites where folks may consider returning.

Last Friday, more than 20 of Micah’s friends in needs joined together to tackle the first site. Specific site locations are not being named to protect those who may need to inhabit them.

In about two hours, the team bagged and lugged years worth of trash to the top of the hill where folks from the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board were scheduled to pick it up.

Folks who are homeless generally have a lack of resources to purchase trash bags and finagle the logistics, transportation and physical capability, to dispose of waste. Many times, people are camping among trash that is not even their own, but has been left behind by others who have moved in and out of the site in months or years prior.

Weather, flooding and other natural events can also complicate matters because the saturation and mud often makes items too heavy or difficult for even one or two people to carry, especially when sites are situated a good distance away from infrastructure. This often means that trash piles up over time and the job becomes overwhelming to those camping there, who frequently experience a number of emotional and problem-solving issues.

Micah has organized a number of efforts the last few years to cleanup trash in prime camping areas. The events have gone a long way in helping those who are homeless to understand the importance of cleaning up their camp, and it has helped the community’s perception of people who are homeless. In general, those who typically participate in the event enjoy the opportunity to be a part of a community improvement effort and they are appreciative of having help to get their sites clean.

The winter shelter operated from November 15 to March 15 this season. Approximately 200 people used the shelter throughout those four months. Some came for just one night; others stayed every night. On average, 35 people stayed in the shelter each night.

Micah intends to organize a number of other camp clean-up events this Spring and will be looking into strategies that can be implemented in order to help those who live outside maintain a clean site.

Community volunteers are invited to participate in our cleanup efforts. If you are interested in helping, please email Mark Houghton at [email protected] or call him at 540-479-4116 x15.